A season-long duel for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship lead took another new turn last weekend with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch wrestling the top position away from Team Penske’s Joey Logano.
Busch reclaimed the lead by 13 points over Logano following the action-packed afternoon of Aug. 4 on the historic Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course, where Busch finished 11th and Logano was 23rd.
So for the first time since early June (following the first Pocono race), Busch is atop the standings. Four races remain to settle the regular season championship, beginning with Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. on NBC Sports Network).
And while Busch has certainly driven the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the top of the season rankings with four victories, a series-best 18 top-10 and 11 top-five finishes, Michigan Internationa has remained a relatively challenging venue for the 2015 Cup champion.
Busch has one victory there, the second Michigan stop of the 2011 season. He has 11 top-10 and seven top-five finishes in 29 career series starts there.
His 17.9 average finish in Monster Energy Series races, however, is the second worst such mark for Busch among the 14 remaining season venues.
Looking at the championship points standings, there is an intense battle among drivers ranked 15th to 17th in the standings. The top 16 drivers will advance to the 10-race playoffs, which begin at Las Vegas on Sept. 15.
Following last weekend’s intense racing at Watkins Glen, seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson moved back into playoff eligibility.
Clint Bowyer is ranked 15th, 12 points ahead of both 16th-place Johnson and 17th-place Ryan Newman.
Although Johnson and Newman are tied in points, Johnson holds the playoff edge by virtue of a higher finish on the season.
All three drivers have won previously at Michigan.